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January 17, 2013

SUNY head touts lower debt, innovation in speech

Staff Report
The Daily Star

---- — Online learning, decreased student debt and innovation were among the highlights of SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher’s State of the University address, delivered Tuesday. 

Zimpher spoke at length of the need to make college more accessible to greater numbers of students, and highlighted Open SUNY, the State University of New York’s online learning platform, as a means toward that end. 

“No institution in America — not even the for-profits — will be able to match the number of offerings and the quality of instruction,” Zimpher said of the initiative due to launch in 2014.

The Open SUNY platform will offer 10 online bacheor’s degree programs that Zimpher said will focus on “high-need workforce demands,” with three pilot programs slated for a fall launch. 

The chancellor also announced a commitment to reducing student debt by at least 5 percent over the next five years, in part by rolling out three-year degree programs at all SUNY campuses in an initiative tagged “Smart Track.” 

Echoing what Gov. Andrew Cuomo had called “innovation hot spots” in his State of the State address, Zimpher pledged to develop a SUNY “innovation hub” in partnership with the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils. Zimpher said the hub would combine “next-generation research, academic and workforce training, and the major needs of the community.” 

Finally, Zimpher joked that the university system would “build the biggest, baddest, Excel spreadsheet of all time” by implementing a SUNY-wide common data system by 2014.

A complete transcript is available at